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La Varenne Pratique: Part 2, Meat, Poultry & Fish

La Varenne Pratique: Part 2, Meat, Poultry & Fish

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La Varenne Pratique: Part 2, Meat, Poultry & Fish

5/5 (1 valutazione)
753 pagine
6 ore
Sep 17, 1989


Still innovative in scope and clarity La Varenne Pratique is the essential culinary reference book for novice and expert cooks alike, bringing together a practical understanding of cooking techniques, ingredients and equipment in an unrivaled guide.
Sep 17, 1989

Informazioni sull'autore

 ANNE WILLAN is one of the world’s authorities on French cooking with more than fifty years of experience as a teacher, cookbook author and food columnist.  She founded Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne in 1975. Her most recent books are The Cookbook Library: The Cooks, Writers and Recipes that Made the Modern Cookbook, with her husband, Mark Cherniavsky, which won the Jane Grigson Award for outstanding literary writing, and The Country Cooking of France, which took two James Beard Foundation Book Awards.  Willan was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Cookbook Hall of Fame in 2013 for her body of work.  She lives in Santa Monica, California and in France.  

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La Varenne Pratique - Anne Willan

Copyright © 2013 Anne Willan, Inc.

Print copyright @ 1989 Anne Willan

All rights reserved. Published by Anne Willan, Inc.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission of the publisher.

For information regarding permission, write to:

Anne Willan, Inc.

P.O. Box 5180

Santa Monica, CA 90409-5180


Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Available

Willan, Anne

La VarennePratique/by Anne Willan

ISBN 978-0-9911346-1-8 (ebook)

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of publisher.

For the conception and planning of La Varenne Pratique Anne Willan would like to thank Jonathan Clowes and Jill Norman.

The contribution of those listed below is recorded with appreciation.

Chief editor: Amanda Phillips Manheim

Consultant editors: Mark Cherniavsky, Henry Grossi, Barbara Wheaton

Contributing author: Barbara Kafka

Techniques demonstrated by: Chef Claude Vauguet, Director of cuisine at Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne, Paris and Burgundy, assisted by Pastry Chef Laurent Terrasson.

Assistant editors: Laura Garrett, Martha Holmberg

Nutritional consultant: Carol Gvozdich.

Recipe testing and development: Henry Grossi, Randall Price

Technique photography by Jerry Young

Recipe photography by Martin Brigdale

Dishes prepared by Jane Suthering

Art directed by Jacquie Gulliver

Project editor: Emma Johnson

Senior editor: Anderley Moore

Managing editor: Victoria Davenport

Consultant editors: Jill Norman, Jane Grigson

American editor: Erica Marcus

Jacket design: Nancy Kenmore

Production: Eunice Paterson, Henrietta Winthrop

For researching and drafting the following chapters Anne Willan owes a special debt to the following contributors:

Henry Grossi: Soups and Stocks, Pasta, Herbs, Spices and Flavorings,Kitchen Equipment.

Faye Levy: Sugar and Chocolate, Fats and Oils.

Amanda Phillips Manheim: Vegetables, Fruits and Nuts, Grains and Legumes.

Steve Raichlen: Flours, Breads and Batters.

Lynn Stallworth and Martha Holmberg: Preserving and Freezing

Anne Willan would also like to acknowledge expert review and guidance

from Geoff Palmer (plant science) and Jon Rowley (fish)

from Shirley Corriher, Elisabeth Evans, Judith Hill and Susan Stuck

Sources of technical or commercial information consulted in the USA include: American Meat Institute; California Sunshine Fine Foods; Fisheries Development Foundations; Fleischmann’s Yeast; Flying Food; Frieda’s Finest; Lundberg Family Farms; National Meat and Livestock Board; Rodale Institute; South Mills Mushrooms Sales; The Sugar Institute; United Dairy Industry Association; United Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Association; United States Department of Commerce, Office of Fisheries; University of Maryland, Department of Horticulture; Paradise Bay Co., Washington for supplying fresh salmon. In Britain, special acknowledgement is due to Department of Zoology, British Museum (Natural History) for expert help and advice; Elizabeth David Cookshop, Covent Garden, for supplying kitchen equipment; The Mushroom Growers Association.

Digital Foreword

In the print edition of La Varenne Pratique, I wrote, Modern technology, has in effect, transformed how we stock our kitchen and how we handle and prepare food. Some 20 years later, modern technology has transformed the way we consume cookbooks. The original La Varenne Pratique, despite selling more than 500,000 copies worldwide, went out of print. With the original harder to find and more expensive to buy, I felt the time was right to create an eBook edition to make La Varenne Pratique affordable and accessible once again.

This eBook is a digital reproduction of the original, created by scanning in every one of the book's 500-plus pages. Digitizing this complicated book was not without challenges. If a page does not format as you would expect, we suggest that you change the font, font size, or page orientation. The eBook’s images can be enlarged, though they cannot be magnified beyond a certain point, as the images are scans from the original printed book, not high-resolution digital photographs. That said, the images themselves are larger, and easier to study, than those in the original print edition.

We decided to divide the book into four parts to make it easier for readers to digest. Now you can download only the part of greatest interest or all of them as you see fit. To the devotees of the print edition, don’t worry: nothing is missing! Every image and every accent has made it safely across the digital divide. We dropped the index as the search function puts a static index to shame. You can quickly find any term, technique, word or phrase at the push of a button.

While we have sliced, diced and digitized the original to fit modern times, this eBook edition of La Varenne Pratique still celebrates the pleasures of the table inside and outside the kitchen just as before. To everyone who has cherished the print edition and to those who are just discovering the digital one, I again say, bon appetit!


Santa Monica, California 2013


In the past 30 years I have had the good fortune to work in food and in cooking in three different countries—France, Great Britain and the United States. This book is the distillation of that experience. It is also the fruit of almost continuous writing and research, much of it associated with La Varenne, the cooking school which I founded in Paris in 1975.

As its name implies, La Varenne Pratique is a book for the practicing cook. The point of departure is that mastery of ingredients is as important to success in the kitchen as mastery of technique. In each chapter, therefore, we consider carefully how to choose ingredients, how to store them, and indeed how to identify them in the first place. Modern technology has, in effect, transformed how we stock our kitchen and how we handle and prepare our food.

Allied with good ingredients must be a knowledge of technique, and it is here that French skill comes into play. The action photographs in this book were shot with French chefs in the heart of France, yet the techniques they demonstrate have universal application, covering such basics as chopping an onion, as well as the complexities of boning a rabbit and tempering chocolate. The principles of cooking apply equally to English roast beef and to a Texas barbecue.

With a knowledge of ingredients and technique, recipes follow naturally. You’ll find a few of them here to illustrate possibilities, together with lists of many more ideas from around the world. La Varenne Pratique celebrates the pleasures of the table inside and outside the kitchen. It is dedicated to those who love to cook, and those who love to eat. To you all, bon appetit!


Paris, May 1989

Weights and Measures

Part 2






Fish is at once the most challenging and rewarding of all foods. The challenge is posed by the care with which it must be cooked. Different types of fish can be adapted happily to almost every imaginable cooking method, and a large number of creative techniques are involved in their preparation. Here lies the prize, in the vast array of fish dishes, simple and sophisticated, classic and contemporary.

In recent years, the increasing efficiency of refrigerated transport has revolutionized the availability of fresh fish and created a true world market in seafood. A superb Atlantic salmon on the slab in Hawaii may have been caught in Norway only 72 hours earlier. As consumers, we benefit not only from refrigerated air transport but also from major advances in processing technology on harvesting vessels. Although freezing does affect the texture of fish, in many cases it does less damage than would occur naturally through bacterial growth. If well-handled fish is frozen immediately, at its peak of quality and at the right temperature, then correctly stored and delivered to the point of sale, deterioration should be slight. Commercial canning is a successful alternative, especially for oily fish such as salmon, tuna, anchovy and sardine.

The other revolution in the industry is fish farming. World demand for fish cannot be met by harvesting at sea alone, particularly as in some ocean areas, stocks of wild fish are being depleted or are under threat from pollution. Trout farming is now taken for granted and a more recent innovation is the harvesting of most Atlantic salmon under controlled conditions. In the United States, catfish farming has been an enormous success—in just over a decade, the annual yield has increased thirty-fold to 300 million pounds. As consumers, the concession we have to make for more plentiful supplies of farmed fish is greater standardization. The flavor and texture of wild fish can vary enormously; the quality of farmed fish is much more consistent, but rarely attains the excellence of the finest wild specimens.

Most important for the cook is an understanding of the differences in taste, texture and bone structure among the various kinds of fish. A fish with an oily, rich flesh, such as mackerel or herring, is as different from a white-fleshed fish, such as hake, as duck is from chicken. Texture is another important characteristic: the coarse flesh of the cod differs from the fine texture of sole and neither could be confused with the firmness of shark or the softness of whiting. Tuna, swordfish and other very big fish invariably appear in the market as steaks, many looking more like meat than fish. Fish with a cartilaginous structure and no transverse bones, such as shark, require different methods of preparation from fish like shad, which seem to be all bone if they are carelessly dissected. Flatfish such as turbot and sole and fish with compressed bodies, such as bream, are better suited to filleting than cutting into steaks. Small fish such as herring and trout are often left on the bone to cook whole, while larger ones like salmon may be sold whole, filleted or cut in steaks.

In this chapter, fish are grouped into 14 categories according to their cooking affinities. First come sole, flounder and other small flatfish offering a wide choice of quality and price. Even more highly prized are halibut and other larger flatfish. Ray and skate are given separate coverage (as are monkfish, and shark and sturgeon), because of their unique cartilaginous structure. The next group of firm-fleshed fish, which includes tuna and swordfish, have firm, meaty flesh.

Firm white fish from the Atlantic and Pacific (snapper and grouper among others) follow; then come flaky white fish, including saltwater bass and mullet. Next is the cod family, which includes hake and pollack among others. Thin-bodied fish like bream and jack are another category for the cook, as are gurnard and other fish that have large heads and are very bony.

Salmon and trout are considered together, followed by the wide range of other freshwater fish. Last come two groups of oily fish: the first includes herring and mackerel (as well as small fish usually deep-fried) and the second includes long-bodied fish like eel. The chapter also covers specific preparations such as caviar and other fish roes, raw fish dishes such as sushi, and fish preserved by drying, salting and smoking are also discussed.

One last word about identifying fish. Not only do fish come in every conceivable shape and size, from one-ounce minnows to one- or two-ton tuna, but also the common vocabulary used to describe different kinds of fish is also loose to the extent that the same fish can have a variety of names. For example, one species of flatfish is called American plaice, Canadian plaice, sand-dab or long rough dab, depending on where it is sold. The reverse is true of redfish, popular in the Cajun cuisine of the southern United States. As the cuisine grew more popular, many inferior species of fish were listed as redfish by retailers. Similarly in Britain some inferior flatfish are marked as sole, for example lemon sole or Torbay sole.

Handling fish

The quality of fish for eating greatly depends on how the fish was handled during the first three hours out of the water, and on whether it was caught by hook and line or in a net. If the fish was caught in a net, the amount of time it was kept there is critical fish—can become bruised and overheated if netted for long periods. Other conditions that influence quality depend on whether the fish was taken aboard the boat alive and how it was bled and eviscerated. Also, the fish should have been refrigerated before its body stiffened into rigor mortis. This point is important because a fish that is expertly refrigerated before rigor mortis sets in will resist bacteria for up to a week, while a fish that is already in rigor mortis when it is refrigerated will have a shorter shelf-life and poorer texture. Finally, to ensure that the fish remains at its peak of quality, it must be kept at the correct temperature during transportation from ship to market.

Choosing fish

The process of selecting fish in the market is not as straightforward as buying a cut of meat. The sea is unpredictable and in rough weather supplies fall and prices rise. Some fish migrate as water temperatures change, remaining seasonal despite modern transport, for example shad, herring and many other oily fish. The first rule when buying is to select fish that looks fresh, rather than choosing a variety that ought to be fresh. Luckily a fish in impeccable condition is easy to spot. When fresh, the flesh has a bright translucent clarity and a sweet smell, without trace of fishy odor. The scales should be intact and shiny, the eyes full, not sunken, and the gills a bright red. When poked, the flesh should feel firm and resilient. (In spawning season, which varies for different fish, the flesh softens and is inferior.) Fillets should not be dry or discolored, nor should they be surrounded by liquid (a sign of old or improperly frozen fish). Fish that has been treated chemically to extend shelf-life usually has an unnatural shininess and a slippery feel.

Note A fish that has been cut into steaks or fillets deteriorates more rapidly than a whole fish because the exposed flesh is more vulnerable to bacteria. For this reason, it is best to buy fish at a market that prepares portions on the spot rather than retailing them pre-cut. Alternatively, purchase a whole fish and cut it up yourself (see Trimming fish and Filleting fish).

Storing fish

Fresh fish should be stored for as short a time as possible after purchase. Shelf-life depends on the type and quality of the fish. Well-handled fish can be kept for up to a week under ideal storage conditions. Use a reliable retailer and try to find out the history of the fish before deciding on how long it can be stored at home.

Temperature is the key to maintaining quality. Spoilage occurs twice as fast at 40°F/4°C (the usual temperature of a home refrigerator) than at 32°F/0°C, which is the ideal storage temperature. Whole fish will keep longer if they have been gutted; this eliminates the enzymes in the stomach that accelerate decay. Fish stored in a home refrigerator should be wrapped tightly in plastic and covered in ice. The melting ice should drain away from the fish. Cut fish should not be in direct contact with ice because this will discolor the flesh and draw out the juices.

Oily fish generally spoil most quickly. If not gutted and kept at the proper temperature, sardines and mackerel, for example, can start to smell and develop unpleasantly strong flavors within 48 hours of being caught.

Freezing fish

Freezing fish in a home freezer is recommended only in case of necessity. Home freezers chill more slowly than commercial machines, allowing the formation of ice crystals, which penetrate cell walls damaging flavor and texture. If freezing is unavoidable, make sure the freezer is set at the lowest possible temperature. Rich fish, such as salmon and firm-fleshed white fish, such as cod, freeze better than delicate ones such as whiting. For freezing methods, see Preserving and Freezing.

It is best to thaw frozen fish slowly in the refrigerator before cooking, to maintain texture and minimize moisture loss. However, some cooks like to cook fish fillets when they are still frozen; cooking times must be increased accordingly.

Available Forms of Fresh Fish

The list below indicates the various forms of fresh fish available from fishmongers and the terms used to describe them. It is intended as a guide for selecting fish and following recipes.

Whole or round As it comes from the water.

Whole and dressed, drawn, cleaned, or gutted Gills and intestines removed.

Whole and pan-dressed Gutted, head removed with tail trimmed, fins and often scales removed.

Roast Large chunk or tail section of large, firm fish.

Steak Crosscut section of a large fish cut ¾-1 ½ in/2-4 cm thick. Depending on size of fish it may be whole, including the central backbone, or cut in half or quarters without bone.

Loin A longitudinal cut from fish such as tuna and halibut.

Fillet A side of fish removed from the central vertebrae. Fillets may come skinned or with skin.

Butterfly fillet, booked fillet Two fillets held together by the belly or the back skin of the fish.

Escalopes Diagonal slices ⅜ in/l cm thick, cut from a large fillet. (They are sometimes called scallops in the United States.)


When a fish is to be served whole, the fins are trimmed so they do not interfere with serving. Here, bream is shown.

1 With a pair of heavy scissors, cut away the fins on either side of the fish. Then cut away the belly fins.

2 Cut away the fins along the back (dorsal fins).

3 Trim the tail by cutting a V shape into it.


Most fish need to be scaled before cooking, though a few, such as salmon, have tiny scales that do not need to be removed. A small number of fish, for example shark, have none at all. Scale fish outdoors or on a draining board. Here, bream is shown.

1 With a fish scaler (shown here), a curry comb or a serrated knife held at an angle, scrape off the scales, working from tail to head. Rinse the fish often under running water.


Small flatfish and fish to be poached keep their shape better when gutted through the gills. Also, fish to be cut in steaks maintain their natural round configuration. Here, bream is shown.

1 Hook your finger through the gills and pull them out (they can be quite sharp).

2 With your fingers, reach through the gill opening and pull out the stomach contents.

3 With scissors, make a small slit at the ventral (stomach) opening and pull out any remaining contents.

4 Run cold water into the gill opening and out through the ventral opening to clean the cavity.


For most purposes fish are gutted (or dressed) through the stomach. Here, whiting is shown.

1 With a medium knife, slit the underside from gills to small ventral opening, taking care not to insert the knife too far.

2 With your fingers, carefully loosen the stomach contents from the cavity and pull them out.

3 With your fingers pull out the gills. Clean the cavity by washing away any blood.

4 With a small spoon, scrape along the vertebrae in the cavity to remove the kidney.


Whole fish that are to be broiled, baked or steamed are scored along the sides so they cook more evenly. Here, bream is shown.

1 With a sharp knife, slash the fish diagonally 3-4 times on each side. The slashes should be about ½ in/1.25 cm deep to allow heat to penetrate.


Fish are usually boned through the stomach unless they are to be stuffed. The head and tail are left on to hold the fish together during cooking. Use a sharp knife with a flexible blade. Here, salmon trout is shown.

1 Gut the fish through the stomach. Continue the stomach slit on one side of the backbone as far as the tail.

2 Open the cavity and with the blade of the knife, cut loose the transverse bones lining the flesh.

3 Turn the fish over and slit the flesh at the base of the backbone on the other side.

4 With the blade of the knife, cut loose the transverse bones lining the flesh as on the first side.

5 With scissors, snip the backbone at the tail and head and, starting at the head, peel it away from the flesh with any attached transverse bones.


Fish is often boned along the backbone in order to keep the stomach cavity intact for stuffing. The head and tail are left on. Use a sharp knife with a flexible blade. Here, mackerel is shown.

1 Slit the fish on either side of the backbone, cutting the flesh away from the bone until it is completely detached.

2 With scissors, snip the backbone once at the head and once at the tail.

3 Lift out the bone, together with the stomach contents and gills.

Fish boned through the backbone can be opened out, filled with stuffing and baked.

Alternatively, the tail can be tucked inside the head and through the mouth. The fish can be poached plain.


Flatfish are boned whole to be stuffed or breaded and deep-fried. The head, fins and stomach contents should be removed before boning. If possible, strip dark and white skin from the fish; if not, remove after cooking. Here, sole is shown.

1 Using a flexible knife, cut along the backbone and cut the flesh away from the bones, holding the knife almost parallel to the bones. Cut to the edge of the transverse bones but do not remove the fillet completely. Turn the fish and repeat for the opposite fillet.

2 With a pair of scissors, snip the spine at the head and at the tail end of the fish, taking care not to damage the flesh with the point of the scissors.

3 Fold back the flesh to the edge of the transverse bones and, with scissors, cut them away from the fin bones. Repeat on the opposite side of the fish.

4 Lift the backbone at the tail end and pull, stripping it from the flesh underneath.

5 For cooking, lay the fish flat and curl the top fillets back to expose the flesh underneath.


Two fillets are cut from most round fish, one from each side of the backbone. Here, salmon is shown.

1 Holding the knife horizontally, slit the skin from head to tail along one side of the backbone.

2 Cut down to the backbone just behind the fish head.

3 Holding the knife flat and keeping the blade in contact with the bone, cut away the flesh from head to tail in a continuous motion.

4 Cut back over the rib cage of the fish to free the flesh from the backbone, and remove the fillet completely.

5 Turn the fish over and remove the second fillet in the same way, working from head to tail.


For flatfish, the filleting technique depends on whether you want two wide, or four narrow, fillets. On larger flatfish, four fillets are usually cut. Here, turbot is shown.

1 To remove 4 fillets: with the point of a sharp knife, cut round the edge of the fish to outline the shape of the fillets.

2 With the point of the knife, cut the fish to the bone in a semicircle just behind the head.

3 Cut a straight line from tail to head along the spine, through to the bone. Keeping the knife almost flat, slip it between the flesh and the rib bones. Cut away the fillet, using a stroking motion and keeping the knife flat.

4 Continue cutting until the fillet and meat lying along the fins are detached with the skin in one piece.

5 Turn the fish round and slip the knife under the flesh of the second fillet. Detach the fillet from the bones beneath, following the same method as for the first fillet.

6 Turn the fish over and repeat steps 1-5 on the underside.

Note On many flatfish, fillets that are taken from the top side, which has darker flesh, will be thicker than those taken from the underside.

To remove two fillets: cut the fish to the bone behind the head. Working from the head along one side, slip the knife between the flesh and the rib bones, cutting as far as the backbone. Turn the fish round and repeat along the other side until the backbone is reached. Detach the fillet and repeat on the other side.

Using Fish Trimmings

The heads and bones left after filleting and boning fish can be made into fish stock. Fish bones and trimmings should be odorless and free of blood. Halibut and sole bones make the best stock, while bones from oily and strong-flavored fish should be avoided.

Skinning whole fish

The decision to skin or not is based on the flavor of the oils next to the skin and on whether the skin itself is tough or soft, thick or thin. For poaching, pan-frying, deep-frying and steaming, fish skin is often removed. For broiling and baking it may be left on, as it helps to keep the fish intact.

The skin of most fish must be cut away with a knife. However, the skin of monkfish, catfish, eel and some flatfish (here, sole is shown) can be stripped off the fish before it is filleted, either from the tail end (flatfish), or from the neck end.


The easiest way to remove the skin of most flatfish is to strip it off the whole fish before boning or filleting. Here, sole is shown.

1 With the point of a knife, loosen the skin near the tail. Grasp the skin firmly with the help of a cloth or a sprinkling of salt. Pull the skin sharply, parallel with the flesh, to strip it away from the flesh.


Dark or tough skin is often removed from fish fillets before they are cooked. Use a sharp knife with a long flexible blade to remove the skin. Here, a turbot fillet is shown.

1 Place the fillet on the work surface, skin side down, tail end toward you. Make a small cut at the tail end to separate the skin from the flesh.

2 Grasp the skin with the fingers of one hand (dipping them in salt or using a cloth if they slip). Hold the knife between the skin and the flesh, with the edge against the skin and the blade almost parallel to it. Work away from you with a sawing motion to remove the flesh, at the same time holding the skin beneath taut with your other hand.


When fish fillets are cooked, the thin membrane on the skinned side may shrink and cause them to buckle. To prevent this they are often flattened and scored. Here, a sole fillet is shown.

1 Place the fillet between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound it lightly with the flat side of a large knife blade.

2 With the tip of a knife, score the fillets lightly in parallel slanting lines on the side that has been skinned.


Depending on the structure of the fish, a line of tiny bones called pin bones may be left in the fillet after cutting it from the backbone. Here, a salmon fillet is shown.

1 With tweezers, or pinching between your thumb and the blade of a small knife, pull out the pin bones one by one.


For poaching or steaming, fish fillets can be folded in rolls, turbans, fans, folds and knots. Most decorative shapes are served plain, but when rolled or folded, they can also be stuffed. For flatfish, if the top and bottom fillets have been removed in one piece, cut them in half down the center. For a neat presentation, all fillets are folded with the skinned side inwards. Four methods of folding are shown below, using sole fillets.


Most fish of 2 lb/1 kg or more are cut into ¾-1 in/2-2.5 cm thick slices for pan-frying, broiling, poaching and baking. The best come from the upper tail. Here, salmon is shown.

1 Cut the fish behind the head. Cut thick, even slices to within 6 in/15 cm of the tail. For large fish, a cleaver may be needed to sever the backbone and free the slices.

2 The tail section is usually cut horizontally in half to make two fillets rather than several small steaks.


When steaks are cut from the central body of the fish, the flaps of flesh around the stomach cavity can be tied in a round to make them look more presentable. Here, salmon is shown.

1 With a small knife, cut the bones lining the stomach cavity away from the flesh. Cut around the backbone with the point of the knife and remove it.

2 Curl the two flaps of flesh inward to form a heart shape and tie it with string, or secure it with toothpicks to hold the shape.


Large fish fillets can be cut into escalopes about 3/8 in/1 cm thick for steaming, baking and pan-frying. Here, salmon is shown.

1 With the tail facing away from you and working toward it, cut thin diagonal slices, keeping them as even as possible. Leave the skin behind.

Timing the cooking of whole fish

For a whole fish, or pieces of fish, less than 1 in/2.5 cm thick, cooking time depends on the method. However, when a whole large fish is baked, broiled, poached or steamed, the cooking time depends on the thickness of the flesh, measured at the thickest point. For every 1 in/2.5 cm of thickness, allow 10 minutes cooking time. When poaching whole fish, the time should be counted from the moment the liquid starts to bubble very gently in one corner of the pan.


No other ingredient overcooks as easily as fish, so testing is vital. For fillets and escalopes, particularly of white fish, less than one minute can make the difference between fish being perfectly done and overcooked. Oily fish, however, can withstand overcooking slightly better than leaner fish. Just before it is done, the thickest part of the fish still clings to the bone and a thin layer (⅛ in/3 mm) of transparent, uncooked flesh is left in the center. When done, the fish flakes when tested with a fork and the transparent layer has just disappeared. When overdone, the fish is dry and falls apart at the touch of a fork. Here, bream is shown.

1 A transparent layer of flesh and clear eye show fish is uncooked.

2 Flaking flesh and an opaque eye show fish is cooked.


Removing the bones from fish steaks makes them easier to eat, though the flesh divides in pieces. Here, cod is shown.

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  • (5/5)
    The only cookbook you will ever need. This was so helpful when I was living in Asia. I could just point at the picture of the exotic produce to the maid and hold up however many fingers I wanted to tell her how much to buy.Everything is from scratch in this book so if you're the kind of person who seems to always find yourself living where you can't readily get processed food...or if you just like to know what the heck is in stuff this is a great cookbook.